Dindinger seeks re-election

Posted 7/16/09

Ending some months of chin scratching in west Centennial’s political circles, City Councilmember Rick Dindinger has announced he will seek a second …

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Dindinger seeks re-election

Posted

Ending some months of chin scratching in west Centennial’s political circles, City Councilmember Rick Dindinger has announced he will seek a second term.

Dindinger’s District 1 had been the only city race in which no candidates had emerged for the November 2009 election, leading some to speculate that announcements by other hopefuls would hinge on Dindinger’s decision.

At press time, no other candidates had announced in the district.

“What I wrestled with was the balance between life and service on council,” the incumbent said. “If I’m re-elected, when I step down, my son will be in the middle of his junior year in high school. It was a matter of life going by really quickly with my kids.”

In a tone recalling singer Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle,” the father of three notes that his son was only 8 when the attorney announced his first run for public office in 2005. He says the long meetings and other council-related functions compete with his family time — and the pull of council is often the winner.

This year, Dindinger was elected by his colleagues to serve as mayor pro tem.

By Dindinger’s reasoning, because term limits will force founding Mayor Randy Pye to step down in January, consistency in other city positions has become all the more important as 8-year-old Centennial enters a new era of leadership.

“That’s what tipped the scale for me,” Dindinger said. “With a new mayor and the transition we’re going through as a city, I want to bring some stability and consistency to council and what we’re doing.”

Since being elected four years ago as an unknown first-time candidate, Dindinger, 41, has developed a reputation as both a consensus builder an independent thinker.

Although he has often taken the role of a city booster, especially in past disagreements with fellow District 1 Councilmember Betty Ann Hamilton, he has also been willing to challenge city staff and fellow councilmembers when he has differed with their positions.

“I try to listen and be reasonable in my approach,” Dindinger said. “I try to find that middle ground, that consensus that will be a win-win. I don’t always succeed. Sometimes I can be more passionate, but the more passionate you get, the less objective you become.”

More than a year ago, when Pye allowed a group promoting a proposed U.S. Department of Peace to make its case for a city proclamation in support of the idea, Dindinger raised strong objections, in principle, to the nonpartisan council spending time on such national matters.

“It’s a matter of not wanting to overstep our role. It can lead to more partisanship on council too,” the Republican said. “So to the extent that we can focus on potholes and snow plowing, it allows for a more cohesive council.”

Dindinger recently backed the position of District 3 Councilmember Rebecca McClellan when she angrily protested a city staff proposal to construct an underpass that would arguably direct traffic into a housing developments.

The Alton Way proposal was to be in conjunction with the anticipated redesign of the heavily travelled intersection of I-25 and Arapahoe Road. The proposed underpass prompted a typically frank and calmly stated rebuke from Dindinger.

“I have a feeling that the residents in District 3, as well as other potential residents that might be impacted, would rather spend more time at Arapahoe and I-25 going through the congestion there than they would having [busy] streets coming to the edge of their neighborhood,” he said at the June 15 council meeting

Dindinger insists he has no particular ax to grind on council, except a desire to continue improving the quality of life for residents of District 1. He describes himself as a “fiduciary” of the city’s far west area.

His proudest accomplishment on council — though he stresses it was a citywide public-private partnership — was the redevelopment of District 1’s declining Southglenn Mall as the soon-to-open Streets at Southglenn mixed-use center.

The perceived jewel of west Centennial, which is expected to be a boon for sales-tax revenue, was facilitated by a series of council actions, including creation of a new redevelopment authority.

Still, over the last four years, what has been most striking to Dindinger has been the relative limits on what a city government can accomplish.

“My biggest surprise was how little difference we can actually make,” he said. “We have public works, and public safety is the next biggest segment of our budget. What’s left for us to really make decisions on is very minimal. There’s so much set in stone that has to be done.”

One area of economic wiggle room has been the creation of a planned 11-acre park adjacent to the new Centennial Civic Center. Current plans call for spending $4.78 million in Arapahoe County open-space funds on the park, which is slated to include an amphitheater, a “destination playground” and much more.

Although many see the park as a site for events and an important source of city identity for the largely invisible suburb, critics, including some on council, have suggested that Centennial may be devoting too much money on a “Taj Mahal” when smaller neighborhood parks might be more utilized.

Dindinger places himself in the former camp.

“This is a good opportunity to create a park,” he said. “It’s not in the most ideal location, being right next to Arapahoe Road, but it can be a great place for having big community events. In two to three years, I would hope we find opportunities in District 1, and I think we will.”

Born in Denver, Dindinger spent much of his childhood and teen years in Germany and Spain while his father worked overseas as a Christian missionary. He jokingly blames his penchant for misspelling on his years spent in a school where British spellings were taught.

One of his strongest childhood memories is when the Dindinger family searched a Yugoslavian graveyard for evidence that their German ancestors had once populated the small-town area.

“The Communist section was well manicured,” he said, “but over in the rundown section with thorn bushes and everything, we started pulling up tombstones that had been knocked over and we found several Dindingers.”

Back stateside, Dindinger graduated fifth in his class at the University of Denver law school. He worked in the Colorado Attorney General’s Office before opening his own law firm specializing in employment law.

The councilmember has lived with his wife and children in Centennial since 1997. He stresses that his wife, an Arapahoe High School graduate, is even more vested in the community than he is.

“When we were looking for a house to buy, we crossed Clarkson heading west and she said turn around,” Dindinger recalled with a laugh. “I said, ‘There’s a house with a ‘For Sale’ sign. She said, ‘You don’t understand. We just passed into Heritage territory. We have to go back’.”

Dindinger plans to walk many of the same streets — without regard to high school affiliations — as he campaigns for a second term.

He admits that the challenge of having an opponent might force him to become a better candidate and that such would be healthy for the body politic.

“I think it’s a good thing for the city,” he said. “Anytime you have debate, it tends to foster even better ideas. If I do have an opponent and even if they win, that’s for the better of the city — at least, I would hope that would be the case.”

Election Day is Nov. 3.

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